Bone Cancer: Symptoms and Signs

This section has been reviewed and approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 08/2014

ON THIS PAGE: You will find out more about body changes and other things that can signal a problem that may need medical care. To see other pages, use the menu on the side of your screen.

People with bone cancer may experience the following symptoms or signs. Sometimes, people with bone cancer do not show any of these symptoms. Or, these symptoms may be caused by a medical condition that is not cancer.

When a bone tumor grows, it presses on healthy bone tissue and can destroy it, which causes symptoms, including:

  • Pain. The earliest symptoms of bone cancer are pain and swelling in the area in which the tumor is located. The pain may come and go at first, then become more severe and steady later. The pain may get worse with movement, and there may be swelling in the soft tissue nearby.
  • Joint swelling and stiffness. A tumor that occurs near or in joints may cause the joint to swell and become tender or stiff, which means a person may have a limited and painful range of movement.
  • Limping. A break, also called a fracture, in the bone with the tumor may cause a pronounced limp if the leg is affected. This is usually a symptom of later-stage bone cancer.
  • Other less common symptoms. Rarely, people with bone cancer may have symptoms such as fever, generally feeling unwell, weight loss, and anemia, which is a low red blood cell level.

If you are concerned about one or more of the symptoms or signs described above, please talk with your doctor. Your doctor will ask how long and how often you have been experiencing the symptom(s), in addition to other questions. This is to help find out the cause of the problem, called a diagnosis.

If cancer is diagnosed, relieving symptoms remains an important part of cancer care and treatment. This may also be called symptom management, palliative care, or supportive care. Be sure to talk with your health care team about symptoms you may experience, including any new symptoms or a change in symptoms.

The next section helps explain what tests and scans may be needed to learn more about the cause of the symptoms. Use the menu on the side of your screen to select Diagnosis, or you can select another section, to continue reading this guide.